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17 Dec 2009

Using the Long Tail of Search to Attract Leads

December 17, 2009Education

It was a great disappointment to hear that Chris Anderson is taking a hiatus from his Long Tail blog.  If you don’t know Chris, I should tell you that he’s written some great information on long tail search, and how it relates to the future of your business. To make a long story short, many are speculating that the long tail will be the end of mass marketing. And while I rarely hear people talking about the importance of the long tail, as a business owner, you need to understand the decisive power of the long tail for several reasons:

  1. 20% of all searches are with keywords that have never been used before
  2. You can’t optimize a page for keyword searches you don’t know about
  3. Upshot bloggers who understand what I’m talking about are going to out-compete you in the search results and steal your business
  4. Once you do understand the long tail, you can increase your business greatly by applying some long tail strategies to your search marketing campaign

To demonstrate the power of long tail search, this blog post today is going to give you a glimpse into how long tail search has helped us attract not only visitors to our website, but has also generated leads for our quality link building services. As I go through this example, think about how this abstract information can be directly applied to your business.

How This Blog Post Really Began

When I first began working for Vertical Measures, one of my first assignments was to create a series of SEO videos. Now this is a keyword that gets between 2-4K searches every month. Based on the quality of the content, and some very minimal onsite SEO and social sharing, the page we created quickly shot into the Google top 10. But the interesting aspect of this story comes months later, when our analytics guy noticed we were getting leads from several long tail keywords related to the videos. As he delved into the specifics, he found several other long tail leads…not traffic, leads. And hence, this blog post was born.

What You MUST Know About the Long Tail

Now, I glosssed over something there. Did you notice I said, "based on the quality of the content?" Well, we should pay close attention to that because it’s part of an essential element you absolutely MUST understand about the long tail – it’s not really about engineering your pages, onsite SEO, or link building. Sure, those things play a role, but what’s really at the heart of the long tail is your ability to provide useful and valuable content for your readers. And if you can be helpful in a way that demonstrates your expertise while positioning yourself for an up-sale to your free content, it’s a win-win situation.  This is really Google’s entire business model, and I would ask you a simple question: if you’re trying to get ranked in Google, don’t you think it would be easier if you embraced their philosophy?

So many people are trying to game the system, engineer results, and pay for rankings. But if they just took a step back, they would see the big picture that many great thinkers and believers in Web 2.0 are championing. Maybe Powazek was onto something….maybe there’s some truth to the one true way: Making something great. Telling people about it. And then doing it again. If you get this, then you understand the changes that are happening on the Internet are characterized by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share and reuse information, and the use the market as a conversation–they’re not about your website rankings (although this could be a side benefit if you follow the philosophy closely)

But enough about mediated culture and web 2.0 philosophy…the good news is this isn’t just about giving stuff away; the long tail carries with it particularly financial benefits for your business, and here are the rankings to prove it…

The Long Tail Rankings

Here’s a list of long tail keyword searches we pulled from our analytics.  Let me preface this by saying we didn’t optimize our site for any of these and our site doesn’t rank #1 for all these terms. In one case, we actually rank in position 10 (still on Google page 1). Yet each of these searches resulted in a qualified lead from our lead form. Now, if this isn’t incentive to work on your corporate blog, I don’t know what is.

  1. how to find citations local serach
  2. how do you know if you have H1 tags on your website
  3. building top quality websites
  4. how to get good links
  5. best link building companies
  6. best practices for link building
  7. how can Microformats help in local business
  8. seo residential services marketing
  9. seo+seo company+seo services+link+partner+resource
  10. us based outsource link building service
  11. social media marketing services pricing
  12. high quality link building service

These Long Tail Rankings Tell a Story

And this is the story…

Imagine a business owner searching for information on SEO for her website. When she first starts, she types in a short phrase, like SEO. She learns a little; then enough to know she needs H1 tags. But she doesn’t know how to tell if her website has them. So she types "how do you know if you have H1 tags on your website" into Google, and finds our video on just that topic. Maybe she reads more articles, or watches more videos, but based on what she sees, she decides she wants more information about our SEO services, so she fills out a form to request it.

The implication here is, as a business owner and website manager, you need to be inside the head of your customers just like this. You need to figure out the million and one ways people will be looking for information about your product, and even related products. Then you need to create free content that is truly helpful, not just hype about your product or service. And in addition, you need to offer searchers a way to initiate the next step with you to take them from a casual observer to an active client.

Now hopefully this conversation gives you a few ideas of how people are searching the long tail and how you might begin to apply it to your business. Of course, applying it to your business could be an entirely different article, and in fact, Mark Nunney wrote an article on just that: how to optimize your articles and pages for the long tail. So if you’re looking for some ideas on how to apply the concept of the long tail to your website or corporate blog, give it a read. And if you have 6 hours to kill, take a listen to Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price. If you don’t have the time, buy his $19 abridged version.